Fresh scents and tastes of spring, all in a chilled glass
In my still vivid memories of childhood in New England, the harbinger of spring was always the prevailing fresh scent of flowers and the much-anticipated Easter Sunday feast. Easter is the most holy of Christian holidays and, like spring, signifies rejuvenation and rebirth.
This Easter Sunday — April 1 — the spring foods’ savor in Shanghai will be different from those of my childhood but the wines will be same fresh wines I enjoyed so many years ago.
The best wines for spring should mirror the sensations of the season — they must be fresh, invigorating and floral. Many white wines have some of these attributes including those made from aromatic varieties like Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Torrontes and Albarino.
These noble whites all qualify as good spring quenchers, but nothing so aromatically and deliciously says that spring has arrived than a glass of chilled Soave.
To say I’m a fan of Soave wines would be a gross understatement. This historic Italian white wine combines the best of tradition and modernity and does it in a quintessentially Italian way.
The wine is unique and has all the attributes needed to qualify as a perfect spring wine. To understand Soave is to understand the unique land, culture and history.
About 30 minutes by car from Verona, the walled Medieval fortress town of Soave is one of the most charming and picturesque destinations in Italy.
Being in the ancient small town surrounded by rolling hills covered in vineyards makes visitors feel like they’re living in a fairytale.
The majestic Castle of Soave that stands over the town was built in the 10th century to protect the town from marauding Hungarians hordes with the equally inspiring walls and their 24 towers added in the 14th century. Altogether, it’s a stunningly picturesque place where visitors can experience extraordinary white wines.
The region of Soave was granted DOC status in 1968 and the production zone covers the eastern hills of the province of Verona that includes the communes of Monteforte d’Alpone, San Martino Buon Albergo, Mezzane di Sotto, Ronca, Montecchia di Crosara, San Giovanni Ilarione, San Bonifacio, Cazzano di Tramigna, Colognola ai Colli, Caldiero, Illasi, Lavagno as well as Soave itself.
Soave is a white wine that’s predominantly made with the Garganega grape. Up to 30 percent Trebbiano di Soave or Chardonnay is also permitted in the blend.
The best wines are dry, fruity, well-textured and persistent. Lovely Soave Spumante sparkling wines and Recioto di Soave sweet wines are also produced, but it’s the still dry white wines that are most renowned and define the region.
Quality-minded, top producers use the Garganega grape to make some of the world’s most distinctive premium white wines, but some short-sighted, quantity-focused producers use the same grape to make indifferent wines.
Large wine cooperatives produce the majority of Soave wines and these range from mediocre to admirable. However, the best wines generally come from small family-owned wineries.
In their caring hands, the Garganega grape can create liquid magic.
Most of the top wines are made with grapes sourced from the historic Classico region and my personal favorite Soave producer is Cantina del Castello. The winery is situated in the heart of Soave town and has prime vineyards on the top of the most prized Classico area hilltops.
This geographic good fortune combined with the passionate drive of owner Arturo Stocchetti and his talented sommelier daughter Giulia allows them to make wonderfully pure and intense wines with excellent Garganega typicality.
In China, look for their flagship Castello Soave Classico DOC, a young and vibrant white wine with lovely minerality and seductive hints of white flower and their Pressoni Soave Classico DOC, a more structured and complex single vineyard wine with tropical fruit flavors as well as elegant mineral and floral aromatics.
Fret not, Soave Classico fun doesn’t stop with the lovely wines of Cantina del Castello, other recommended producers with wines available in Shanghai are Pieropan, Inama and Speri.
Proof that Soave excellence isn’t the exclusive domain of the Classico region is the family winery La Cappuccina. Their Soave DOC wine is made of 100 percent Garganega grapes from the black soils of the Alpine Valley and features a delicate floral and almond nose and fresh tropical and citrus flavors.
Producers better known for their Valpolicella red wines like Masi, Satori and Tommasi also make quite serviceable Soave wines that are easy-to-find. Whether it’s the elite wines of Cantina del Castello and Pieropan or the larger production cooperative wines, Soave wines are among the affordable premium white wines in the world.
They are also great partners to many Chinese dishes including the enticing spring fare as featured in today’s iDeal section.
To do them proper justice, serve Soave wines nicely chilled, about 8-10 degrees Celsius, in a glass with a generous bowl that allows for aromatics development.
Your springtime in Shanghai never smelled or tasted better.
Varieties: Garganega is the principal grape of the Soave region and must comprise at least 70 percent of the blend with Trebbiano di Soave and Chardonnay also allowed.
Key term: Classico is an Italian wine term used all over Italy to designate the traditional and usually best growing area of a region.
By John H. Isacs | March 29, 2018 | read this on their website